Whether you’re planning your thousandth date or trying to pick a spot to meet a stranger from an app who listed their occupation as three fire emojis, we can all agree that not all restaurants are ideal for romance. Many places are too loud for someone to hear about that one time you saw a bear in North Carolina. You might be seated uncomfortably close to a party of 24 celebrating several quinceañeras. Or worse, things are too quiet and you have to listen to each other slurp pasta for 45 minutes. The good news is you won’t have to worry about any of that at these spots. And even if that stranger you swiped right on ends up being 15 years older than they claimed, at least you’ll get some great food out of it.
We must warn you: there will be a wait at Katana. It will be long too (somewhere around an hour, most likely). This is simply always the case at this small, popular sushi restaurant, which never takes reservations. So why are we recommending it? We love it here, especially when we're drinking beer and sitting next to someone we really like. It's one of those sushi restaurants where the plates float through the dining room on a little stream and it’s a good intro to couple teamwork if you two aren’t quite assembling Ikea furniture yet. Different color plates cost different amounts, and if you see something you like, you simply reach out and grab it. There are always a ton of people on dates here because the counter seating is most comfortable for parties of two. And there is a bar conveniently located next door where you can have a beer and wait for a couple seats to open up.
Vinya Wine & Market
Key Biscayne's Vinya is the kind of casual-yet-fancy spot that'll really help you nail the "I'm trying, but not too hard" messaging of a date. There's indoor, outdoor, and bar seating that's all walk-in friendly. The wine selection is, obviously, great (with glasses for as low as $8). They also have excellent cocktails and beer too. But the food here is so much better than your average wine bar charcuterie. There are small plates, salads (including a gorgeous niçoise), and bigger entrees, like lobster thermidor sitting in a delicious gruyère sauce you get to mop up with slices of toasted brioche. It's never too loud to have a conversation inside, the service is attentive (but not suffocating), and it's pretty close to the beach in case you want the date to end in a sunset stroll, because you're just romantic like that.
For something a little fancier involving sushi, consider Hiyakawa. It's not cheap, but the Wynwood spot is a good bet for a really delicious dinner in an environment perfect for that somewhat expensive article of clothing you haven't had a good excuse to wear yet. The first thing you'll notice when you walk in is the beautiful curvy wooden architecture that makes this place feel like a fancy cave. But eventually, your attention will turn to the food. The menu is broken up into a few categories—smaller appetizers, grilled and steamed dishes, fried dishes, soups, and some of the best sushi in Miami. Try to hit just about every section when placing an order—especially the sugata-mori appetizer. It's a rotating fish that's presented whole, with delicate strips of sashimi you get to grab right off the fish's belly.
El Carajo Tapas and Wine
Maybe this isn't the first time you were taken on a date to a gas station (oh, high school, you were so weird) but it will be the best gas station date you'll ever go on. That's because inside this Coconut Grove gas station is El Carajo, a classic Spanish restaurant where you can drink wine, eat tapas, and have a generally wonderful time. There's an old school vibe to this place—so maybe skip it if you're looking for something new and trendy. But we've always had a very pleasant experience here eating bacon-wrapped dates, fluffy Spanish omelettes, crispy croquettes, and drinking a bottle of wine. Speaking of wine, there are tons of bottles for sale inside the gas station, which you can buy for your meal at retail price plus a $10 corkage fee.
Paradis Books & Bread
Paradis is on our guide to The Best Bars For A First Date In Miami, but it's also an excellent place to eat too, so it makes not one but two date night guides. So, obviously, what we're saying is: it's a good bet for a date. This is especially true if your idea of a perfect date involves tinned fish, square slices of delicious pizza, and wine. The North Miami spot is lowkey and quiet, with some cozy indoor seating and spacious outdoor tables. Wherever you sit, you’ll have no trouble hearing your date, who will assume you’re very cultured since you brought them to a wine bar with lots of books.
Maybe you want to wow your date by inviting them to your impossibly cool apartment and impressing them with your kitchen skills. But maybe you also possess none of those things. It's OK—just go to Coconut Grove’s Los Félix, a Mexican restaurant that's the closest you'll get to the dinner party you're not capable of throwing. The dining room here feels more like the minimal apartment of a friend who knows the power of a well-placed candle and the ideal conversational music volume. The staff seem to have graduated with a master’s degree in The Art Of The Dinner Party. And the food—dishes like a squash blossom quesadilla, tetela, and pork cheek carnitas—is served in reasonable portions that won't leave either of you too full to do anything fun afterward. Plus, on the weekends, they turn the lights down low and have a DJ spinning in the dining room.
If Los Félix sounded interesting, but you're not in the mood for Mexican food, then consider Krüs Kitchen. It's the upstairs neighbor and sister restaurant of Los Félix, and an absolutely pitch-perfect date spot. The space is intimate but not cramped—with a domed ceiling, scattered wooden tables, and shelves of natural wine and pantry supplies (which you can buy to-go, in case you want to continue the date at home). The menu is a seasonally rotating mix of crudos, pasta, and more. Because it changes often, we can't guarantee what you'll encounter here. But our last trip involved a hunk of fresh bread with anchovy/black garlic butter, smoked corn agnolotti, and beef cheek ragu—all incredibly delicious things that will make you sad to leave the table.
The period of a relationship when your person still seems to think you’re actually cool can be stressful. It’s only a matter of time before you’re outed as the nervous weirdo you really are, but 27 is a good place to postpone the disillusion for as long as possible. This Mid-Beach spot is laid out like a house and the dining room feels more like a living room, which makes for a relaxed meal where you don’t have to worry if you’re using the wrong knife. The rotating seafood-heavy menu is really good, and also light enough to keep you from yawning before the check comes. You should absolutely be drinking the very good cocktails here too. Just pretend like you didn’t have to google the word “orgeat” while your date was in the bathroom.
There are dates that require fancy clothes and special occasion spots, and then there are dates when you just want to have a beer, conversation, and maybe a phenomenal hot dog. For the latter kind of date, go to Off Site. It's a small beer bar in Little River that's laidback enough for a conversation, but not so boring that your date will fall asleep when you go use the bathroom. The only thing that's a possible distraction here is the menu, which consists of remarkably delicious bar food, including perfect versions of a hot dog, burger, wings, and a Cuban sandwich. If nothing else, you can both spend the date discussing how f*cking good that fried chicken sandwich was.
Soya E Pomodoro
Jazz and very good pasta should guarantee you’ll at least get a polite “Thanks for dinner!” text the next morning. But regardless, you’ll be glad you came here—if only to add this to your roster of places to bring future dates, who will hopefully appreciate this wonderful/random little Italian spot in the side of a Downtown office building enough to not ghost you. Come Thursday through Saturday for the live jazz, and order the fazzoletti di formaggio e pera, which you will, unfortunately, have to end up sharing after your date tastes this great pear and ricotta pasta.
Mandolin Aegean Bistro
Miami can’t agree on a lot: speed limits, politics, or the intentions of Derek Jeter to name a few. But Mandolin might just be the one thing the entire city can get behind. It’s beautiful, consistent, and delicious, all of which make it a very safe bet for a date—even if you don’t know (or have never met) the person you’re bringing here. You'll need a reservation (and you might have to make it a month out) to guarantee one of the coveted outdoor tables. If you're still not super comfortable with this person, split a whole grilled fish and avoid the heavier Greek plates that’ll have you smelling like a hunk of feta cheese and garlic that just ran a marathon.
Regardless if it’s a first or a 50th date, Boia De is a great option and just a really cool little restaurant—provided you can snag a reservation, which isn't the easiest thing to do these days. We could go on and on about how cute the dining room here is, but that will be obvious the second you walk in. So instead, let’s talk about the food. It’s a great Italian menu with things like beef tartare, potato skins topped with stracciatella and caviar, and rotating pasta options that are truly worth shedding a tear over. Chat up your server about a bottle of wine and split the crispy tiramisu for dessert.
For those dates when you don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard, but obviously still need to try just a little hard, go to Pinch. This Upper East Side spot is casual enough where your date won’t be scared that you’re about to propose, but they also serve consistently excellent food worthy of a special occasion. After a bite of the burger or spicy octopus, your date will be confident that you are the kind of person who knows where to find very good food, which might lead to marriage eventually—especially if you take them back for brunch when Pinch serves their fantastic guava-stuffed french toast.
Tropezón is a really fun gin and tapas bar on Española Way in South Beach. Just about every table in the snug restaurant is perfect for couples, the cocktails are outstanding, and the solid tapas will give you something to snack on while you try your best to be charming. If you succeed in showcasing that charm and things go well, there's also a great nightcap spot within walking distance: El Salón. It's a dim cocktail bar where you can sip a martini while trying to contort your face muscles into a formation that could be considered "flirtatious."
Not only does Macchialina make some of the best pasta in Miami, but it’s also just a really romantic place to eat a meal, especially with their new outdoor seating. While the indoor seating is dark and intimate, they have a pretty covered patio with a noise level that won’t require you to scream “spaghetti pomodoro” at your server three times in a row. Although you will probably be screaming when you taste the pasta here, which is stunningly good. If you're up for it, get as much dessert as you can fit in your stomach. It's always unbelievably good here.
NIU Kitchen is a Catalan spot that is one of our favorite restaurants in the entire city. It went through lots of changes during the pandemic, and has recently taken over the space that once housed its sister restaurant, Arson. But all you need to know is that’s it’s still a great place to bring someone who appreciates natural wine and a flawless pan con tomate. There are no shortage of outstanding dishes here, including things like cold tomato soup with mustard ice cream and the ous, a delicious bowl of poached eggs and truffled potato foam. Plus, it’s just a really lovely place to lazily hang out with a bottle of wine.
Ironside Kitchen Pizza & Coffee Co
Ironside is a great low-stress option. The indoor space is very cute, with mismatched wooden furniture and an open kitchen where you can watch the pizzas get fed into the oven. But unless it’s unbearably hot, sit outside. It's really beautiful on their patio. The menu includes everything from a few salads to lasagna, but the Neapolitan pizzas are what you should focus on. One of the best parts about Ironside: it’s BYOB, which will make the tab a lot easier to pick up in case you’re feeling generous (or too awkward to ask if your date wants to split it).
Orilla Bar & Grill
There just isn't much about South Beach that feels "sexy" anymore. But Orilla is that rare version of sexy South Beach. The Argentinian restaurant is a place where you can dress up a little, sip martinis, and cut into a medium rare steak. And it's a good spot to go out in South Beach when you’ve gotten a little sick of South Beach. When it comes time to order, focus on red meat and cocktails, because that’s what Orilla does best. If your date is a hardcore martini person, surprise them by ordering the Seashore Martini. It comes with a tableside presentation that feels like a science fair demonstration and is one of the only martinis in town we’re OK paying $24 for.